Wednesday, 25 December 2019

THE WHEEL OF TIME TV series round-up

With Amazon’s The Wheel of Time TV series deep in production on its first season, I thought it might be worthwhile to confirm the state of play on the adaptation at this current stage.

From left to right: Barney Harris (Mat), Madeleine Madden (Egwene), Zoe Robins (Nynaeve), Marcus Rutherford (Perrin), Rosamund Pike (Moiraine), Josha Stradowski (Rand) and Daniel Henney (Lan).

The Wheel of Time TV series is (naturally) based on the fourteen-volume novel series written by Robert Jordan (and completed by Brandon Sanderson, who wrote the last three volumes from Jordan’s notes) and published between 1990 and 2013.

The series is being shot and filmed by Sony Television for Amazon. Sony acquired the Wheel of Time TV series rights in 2016 and entered into an agreement with Amazon to make the series the following year.

So far, a first season of eight episodes has been commissioned (based on agency information) and is currently 15 weeks into production (although production is on hiatus this week and next for the holidays). The shooting of Season 1 began on 16 September 2019 and is expected to end in May 2020.

A second season has not officially been greenlit, but given Amazon’s recent tendency to renew shows early and the news that the writers’ room is already working on Season 2 scripts, a second season renewal seems inevitable.

Season 1 will adapt The Eye of the World and potentially parts of The Great Hunt, but this is not confirmed. Season 1 will also feature new and expanded storylines not in the book, most notably the story of the false Dragon Logain.

An airdate for Season 1 has not yet been confirmed, but recent information from licensees and agency information suggests that Amazon want to get the show on air before the end of 2020. Although tight, this seems doable; for comparison, Netflix’s The Witcher finished shooting on 31 May 2019 and was on air on 20 December the same year.

The production is based in Prague, with location filming in the Czech Republic and Slovenia having already taken place. The Great Soča Gorge in Slovenia reportedly is standing in for part of the Two Rivers and Vojkovice in the Czech Republic is apparently going to be the site of the Taren Ferry river crossing. Additional filming has taken place at St. Wenceslas Church in Vysluni, Czech Republic (some have speculated for Shadar Logoth, but this is unconfirmed). 

The budget for Season 1 is unknown, but given the slightly greater shoot length, larger cast and larger visual effects requirements it is likely to be more than The Witcher (which had around $7 million per episode) but probably not as great as Lord of the Rings: The Second Age (which is estimated at between $10 and $15 million per episode).

Showrunner/head writer Rafe Judkins (right) with Brandon Sanderson.

The showrunner, creator and head writer on the series is Rafe Judkins, who previously worked as a writer, script editor and producer on series including Chuck, Hemlock Grove and Agents of SHIELD. Judkins is a lifelong Wheel of Time fan.

The other writers on Season 1 are Amanda Kate Shuman (The Blacklist, Berlin Station), Paul & Michael Clarkson aka the Clarkson Twins (The Feed, His Dark Materials), Dave Hill (Game of Thrones), Justine Juel Gillmer (Into the Badlands, The 100) and Celine Song (playwright).

DirectorsUta Briesewitz (Stranger Things, Westworld, Jessica Jones) is directing the first two episodes and possibly the third. She is also an executive producer on the project.

Wayne Yip (Doctor Who, Into the Badlands, Preacher) is directing at least one episode.

Salli Richardson-Whitefield (Punisher, Doom Patrol, American Gods) is directing at least one episode.

Kelly Valentine Hendry (Gangs of London, Harlots, The Last Kingdom, Broadchurch) is the casting director on the show.

Mark Risk (Dredd, The Watch, Black Mirror, Outlander) is a storyboard artist.

Joshua Lee (The Fifth Element, Prometheus, seven of the Star Wars movies and all of the Harry Potter saga) is handling the animatronics and model design for the show.

Nick Dudman (Carnival Row, Penny Dreadful, the Harry Potter series, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Willow, Legend, Krull, Return of the Jedi) is handling makeup effects and prosthetics for the show.

Isis Mussenden (The Chronicles of Narnia film series, The Wolverine, Masters of Sex) is reportedly the costume designer on the series.
David Buckley (Papillon, The Good Wife, The Good Fight) is reportedly the main composer for the series. You can listen to samples of his work here.
Miroslav Prechechtel (Carnival Row, Knightfall, Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Romanoffs) is reportedly working on special effects for the series.
Jakub Chilczuk (Curfew, Black Mirror) and Karen E. Goulekas (The First, Lifeline, Roots, Looper, Spider-Man, Godzilla) are working on visual effects for the series.

Sonja Field (Turn Up Charlie, Game of Thrones: The Long Night) is reported to be a dialect coach on the series.
Valyrian Steel will be producing replica weapons, jewellery and angreal from the series.

David Luther (His Dark Materials, Black Sails) is a director of photography. David “Moxy” Moxness (Whiskey Cavalier, Fringe, Smallville) is also a director of photography on the series.

Matt Platts-Mills (The Alienist, Taboo) is an editor on at least episodes 1-3.

Ted Field, Nina Heyns, Marigo Kehoe, Darren Lemke, Rick Selvage, Mike Weber and Lauren Selig are listed as producers on the project.

Harriet McDougal, the head of the Robert Jordan Estate/Bandersnatch Group, the editor of the book series and Robert Jordan’s widow, is consulting producer on the project. Larry Mondragoran of Red Eagle Entertainment is also a producer on the project. Red Eagle has no direct involvement in filming.

Brandon Sanderson, who co-wrote the last three books in the Wheel of Time novel series (from Robert Jordan’s notes), is a consulting producer and occasional creative consultant on the series. Wheel of Time uberfan Sarah Nakamura is also a creative consultant on the show.

The Episodes
The known working titles for the episodes are as follows:

101: Leavetakings, written by Rafe Judkins
102: Shadow’s Waiting, written by Amanda Kate Shuman
103: A Place of Safety, written by the Clarkson Twins
104: The Dragon Reborn, written by Dave Hill
105: unknown
106: The Flame of Tar Valon, written by Justine Juel Gillmer
107: unknown
108: unknown, probably to be written by Rafe Judkins

There will be goats.

So far, 22 actors have been announced or leaked for Season 1, but this is not the full cast. Actors marked* are probably in the show (usually through their casting agents putting the credit in their online bios and then removing them, presumably at Amazon's request) but Amazon has not formally confirmed them as yet.

Moiraine Damodred - Rosamund Pike
Rand al'Thor - Josha Stradowski
Egwene al'Vere - Madeleine Madden
Perrin Aybara - Marcus Rutherford
Mat Cauthon - Barney Harris
Nynaeve al'Meara - Zoe Robins
Lan Mandragoran - Daniel Henney
Tam al'Thor - Michael McElhatton
Logain Ablar - Alvaro Morte
Loial - Hammed Animashaun
Thom Merrilin - Alexandre Willaume
Padan Fain - Johann Myers
Eamon Valda - Abdul Salis*
Master Hightower - Pearce Quigley*
Alanna Mosvani - Priyanka Bose
Maksim - Taylor Napier
Ihvon - Emmanuel Imani
Abell Cauthon - Christopher Sciueref*
Natti Cauthon - Juliet Howland*
Eldrin Cauthon - Lilibet Biutanaseva*
Bode Cauthon - Litiana Biutanaseva*
Laila Aybara - Helena Westerman*
Narg/Trollocs - Roman Dvorak*
unknown - Naana Agyei Ampadu, Daryl McCormack, Lolita Chakrabarti*

In the case of some characters who do not appear until later books (notably Alanna and her Warders and Eamon Valda), it is believed these characters will appear in the expanded Logain storyline, which will reportedly see him captured on-screen rather than off-page as in the book. The character of "Laila Aybara" does not appear in the books, but Perrin notes that he once had a girlfriend called Laila that he could have married, leading to speculation that the writers may be considering a major change to Perrin's backstory. However, this casting has not yet been confirmed by Amazon.

Assuming that Season 1 covers all of The Eye of the World, roles yet to be confirmed could possibly include Cenn Buie, Geofram Bornhald, Dain Bornhald, Mordeth, Jaret Byar, Min Farshaw, Elyas Machera, Bayle Domon, Floran Gelb, Aram, Raen, Ila, Morgase Trakand, Elayne Trakand, Gawyn Trakand, Galadedrid Damodred, Gareth Bryne, Elaida do Avriny a'Roihan, Basel Gill, Lamgwin Dor, Ingtar Shinowa and Agelmar Jagad, among many, many others.

More news as we get it.

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